The late folksinger Lee Hays was once discussing present day songwriters and comparing them to his old pal Woody Guthrie, one of the most talented and prolific of them all.
Among others, the name of Charlie Maguire came up: "Charlie Maguire is working very hard at making music. He's got a way to go, but he's definitely one of 'Woody's children.' He's in the tradition, he's attempting to express things that he knows about. He made a very professional job of putting out his first record and he's worked very hard. He hasn't got the sophistication that Pete Seeger has, or Don McLean, or anything like that. He's very much one of them good ol' boys."
Anyone acquainted with Lee Hays knew that he was never one to offer praise lightly. Well, Charlie Maguire has followed up his excellent debut album with another equally good, Harbour Lights (Train on the Island T1-10), featuring 13 of his latest compositions.
Nearly all of Maguire's song ideas come from his home region, the Midwest; in fact, the album opens with a piece titled "I'm from Minnesota," a picturesque, descriptive song reminiscent of one of Woody Guthrie's love songs to America.
Symbolism pervades the metaphoric "Fine Old Lady," in lines
"A woman of the world, you can see that in her face/ Her lovers are all sailors/ Who take her from place to place."
Another ode to sailing is the lovely title track. A song about men who sail as an occupation, it also speaks of the loneliness of life on the sea and the welcome return home from a long sea voyage.
"Catastrophe Carpentry" is what Maguire calls what do-it-yourselfers try to do around the house. His song "Talking Home Improvement" is all about that common experience shared by weekend painters, plumbers and carpenters who know just enough about doing a job to make a mess out of it. (Reminds me of the time I tried to change a washer and ended up with such a leaky faucet, it had to be repaired by a plumber.)
Charlie Maguire seems to have a love affair with trains, since he writes such beautiful songs about them. "DM & IR" is about a freight train that carries iron ore from the mines to be made into steel miles away; it not only paints an image of the train, but gives a feeling of the work it does as well.
The British Columbia Railroad is commemorated in another ballad. That railroad runs a passenger service along the Fraser River in Canada with a three-coach train, and
Charlie gives us a personal glimpse of what it must be like to take that trip.
Very few songwriters have attacked one of the more serious problems in American society--ageism. In his "Play Us a Waltz" Maguire powerfully describes the plight of unwanted and unloved older people, isolated in old age homes waiting to die. His writing here demonstrates empathy and understanding for these undeserved outcasts of society.
Harbour Lights is one fine record from one of our most talented song writers. It contains both a very personal view of the world and a universal message of feeling good about one's own lisle spot in the world.
This record is highly recommended for those seeking a better understanding of themselves and their place in the world, for Charlie Maguire has achieved both.
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